BIFF gunman wearing SAF shirt is cousin of Umbra Kato

Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Government troops killed a reported cousin of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) founder Ameril Umbra, alias Umbra Kato, and three other Muslim rebels, including an Arab-looking fighter after encounters in Shariff Saidona, Maguindanao last Saturday night.

The military reported that Marines gunned down Kato’s cousin whose name is still being verified, and three others in Barangay Pusao, Shariff Saidona.

Kato’s alleged relative was wearing a uniform of the police Special Action Force (SAF).

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office (AFP-PAO) said the bodies of the four slain BIFF rebels were turned over to local authorities for Muslim burial rites after being processed by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

The soldiers recovered from Kato’s slain relative a mobile phone that contained messages from the BIFF leader who called the rebel his cousin and also issued orders to the guerrillas.

Cabunoc said the military believed that Kato’s slain relative and the Arab-looking rebel were part of the BIFF unit that killed 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos during the clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 when the policemen raided the hideout of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan. The police commandos killed Marwan while his Filipino cohort Basit Usman escaped.

“He (Kato’s cousin) was wearing the uniform of one of the slain SAF commandos,” Cabunoc said.

It was earlier reported the BIFF is not only coddling Usman but also five other foreign terrorists, including an Arab-looking man and four Indonesians.

Cabunoc said some 73 BIFF rebels have been killed and 33 others wounded since the offensive was launched last month against the BIFF and the newly formed Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) led by another Kato relative, Muhammad Ali Tambako.

On the government side, four soldiers, including a young Army ranger lieutenant, were killed while 29 others were wounded in the vicinity of Mamasapano, Datu Piang and Shariff Saidona towns in Maguindanao last Sunday.

The slain Army officer was identified as 1Lt. Grommel Auman, executive officer of the 6th Scout Ranger Company whose unit engaged around 100 BIFF rebels.

“We engaged the enemies in an intense firefight for about five hours. We were able to seize two of their defense positions after grabbing one of the M60 machineguns that they used against us,” 6th Scout Ranger Company commander 1Lt. Blas Alsiao said.

Ausman and his team were tasked to recover the bodies of three soldiers from the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion initially killed by the rebels in the heavy fighting a day earlier.

As of yesterday, Cabunoc said the elements of the 6th Infantry Division have extended the operations against the BIFF in Maguindanao.

Close to 50,000 residents have evacuated from Mamasapano, Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona towns in Maguindanao due to the continued fighting between government troops and BIFF rebels.

More than 20 schools in the area have been closed affecting over 20,000 elementary and high school students.

Some 36 BIFF members were killed in separate clashes with Army and Marine troops since March 1.

The Marines airlifted to the Maguindanao Airport in Datu Odin town last Sunday three truckloads of ammunition and artillery projectiles as part of the preparations to neutralize the BIFF.

The Army is also deploying the 11th Scout Ranger Company from Compostela Valley to join the fighting in Maguindanao.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team (HEART) would distribute 10 tons more of relief supplies in evacuation sites. – With John Unson, Edith Regalado


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